Objectives: Recognition of alcohol-related health problems in the elderly is challenging. Alcohol use also tends to be a hidden issue. The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence and at-risk drinking patterns in community-dwelling older adults and their associations with socio-demographic and health-related factors.
Design: The data were collected with a postal questionnaire from a random sample of 2100 elderly people (≥ 65 years) living in the medium-sized city of Espoo, Finland. The response rate was 71.6% from the community-dwelling sample. We defined the amount of at-risk drinking as 1) consuming >7 drinks per week or 2) >5 drinks on a typical drinking day or 3) using >3 drinks several times per week.
Results: Of the respondents, 8.2% (N=114) were at-risk drinkers. At-risk drinking was associated with younger age and male sex, higher level of education, good income, living with a spouse, and current smoking. In addition, good functioning was associated with at-risk drinking. Although frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption declined with age, of our respondents nearly one-fifth of men aged 71-80 years and one-tenth of men aged 81-90 years could be classified as at-risk drinkers. At-risk drinkers had comorbidities and multiple medications as often as non-risk group. A significantly larger proportion of the at-risk drinking group relative to the non-risk group admitted falling or injuring themselves (5.3% vs. 0.7%) or forgotten to take their medications because of the use of alcohol.
Conclusions: At-risk drinking is prevalent among older adults, particularly among males, despite prevalent comorbidities and multiple medications. At-risk drinking is associated with adverse events such as a tendency for injuries.